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Contemporary forms of slavery: UN human rights expert to visit Belgium

GENEVA / BRUSSELS (16 February 2015) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Urmila Bhoola will carry out her first official visit to Belgium from 19 to 26 February 2015. The human rights expert will gather information on the legislative, policy and institutional framework to tackle contemporary forms of slavery in the country, and ensuring protection of human rights of the victims.

As an independent expert, Ms. Bhoola is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on contemporary forms of slavery, which include forced labour, domestic servitude, worst forms of child labour and forced marriage.

“I look forward to engaging with representatives of the authorities, civil society organizations, the national human rights institution and other relevant parties,” the Special Rapporteur said ahead of her mission, which will also look at possible good practices in fighting contemporary forms of slavery, as well as challenges Belgium may face in this regard. 

“Most importantly, I will meet with victims of modern forms of slavery to hear from them about their experiences and what support they need,” the rights expert stressed.

At the end of her eight-day visit to Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Namur, Ms. Bhoola will share her preliminary observations at a press conference on Thursday, 26 February 2015, at 12:00 noon, at the conference room of the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, 1040 Brusssels (Residence Palace, 8th floor).

Following the visit, the Special Rapporteur will present a report containing her conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2015.

Urmila Bhoola (South Africa) assumed her mandate as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences on 2 June 2014. Ms. Bhoola is a human rights lawyer working in the Asia Pacific region on international human rights, gender equality and labour law. She has 20 years of experience as a labour and human rights lawyer in South Africa and served as a Judge of the South African Labour Court for five years. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/SRSlaveryIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Belgium: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/BEIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Janja Sinkovič (+41 22 928 9356 / jsinkovic@ohchr.org)
Christophe Verhellen (+32 2 788 84 54 / Mob: +32 475 90 63 60 / benelux@unric.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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